User Growth

How to run a digital competitor research from scratch

September 6, 2019

When I ask founders or marketers if they have created a competitor research, this is the picture that comes into our and their minds.

Busy founders | Competitor Research

The reason why is simple.

Their idea and importance of running a competitor analysis is very different.

Their idea of running a competitor research is knowing they exist, scrolling through their website and if we are lucky, signing up to their newsletter.

To make matters worse, I have received lists of competitors from companies who turned out to not even be a competitor.

The truth is, the best growth strategies didn’t happen when a founder or marketer randomly woke up in the middle of the night thinking about a new concept or strategy.

They came through a deep understanding of the market they are in, who they are competing against and figuring out a way to break free from their competitors.

The best way to visualize this, is a picture created by Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at Drift.

Drift CMO | Competitor Research L Dave Gerhardt

Before we start, it’s important to understand that running a competitor research is not to copy-paste their entire strategy.

It’s a way to deeply understand who you are competing with, how they are growing and what you can learn from them to craft your own unique marketing strategy to break free from your competitors.

This is a step-by step guide to execute your competitor research from scratch.

Table of contents

Part 1: Understanding the growth Model of each company

Part 2: How to select your competitors for your competitor research (the market)

  • The 3 foundations of a competitor research
  • The 4 categories of picking your competitors.

Part 3: How to research the product and pricing of your competitors (the model and product)

  • The Business Model of your competitors
  • The Barriers of Entry of your competitors
  • The Pricing of your competitors
  • The Product strengths and weaknesses of your competitors
  • The Product Reviews of your competitors
  • The Product Demos of your competitors

Part 4: How to conduct a digital competitor research (the channel)

  • SEO & SEA Competitor Research
  • Facebook Competitor Research
  • Technology Stack Competitor Research
  • Analytics Competitor Research
  • LinkedIn Competitor Research
  • Reviews Competitor Research
  • Extra questions for your Competitor Research

Part 1: Understanding the growth model of every company

If you look at how a company grows from a high level, you'll find that there are 4 models that need to fit in order to grow.

This is called the 4-model fit, developed by Brian Balfour.

These are the 4 pieces you'll need to figure out in order to understand how your competitors are growing:

  1. The Market: What market segments and customers are they going after?
  2. The Product: What product or service are they selling towards those segments and how are they communicating the value towards the market?
  3. The Model: How (much) are their customers paying them?
  4. The Channel: How are they attracting those customers?
credits: Brian balfour

If you want to know how your competitors are growing, these are the 4 things you want to discover during your competitor research.

Let's start with the first part: The Market.

The Market: How to select your competitors for your competitor research

If you don’t know who you are competing with, you don’t know who to research.

But here is a mistake companies make before running their competitor analysis.

Segmentation.

If you don’t segment your market and Ideal Customer Profile before you run your analysis, you will burn through your resources.

Why?

You’ll end up creating a huge list of companies that might not even be relevant to research.

Or you won’t understand what you need to document when creating your research.

This is why a Market Segmentation and Ideal Customer Profiling comes before or during our growth marketing audit.

Let’s take Albacross as an example to run this analysis.

Albacross is an online tool that automagically identifies companies visiting your website, creates new opportunities in your CRM and helps you with relevant information to close more deals.

In order to run a competitor analysis, your company needs to align around 3 things.

The 3 foundations of a competitor research

1. Market Segments & Customer Profile (Who)

Which market segment are you going after and who are you targeting within those segments?

Competitor Research by Ricardo Ghekiere

If you look at customers interested in the technology of Albacross you can think of a few segments, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s start with two of them.

  • Agencies using the software to provide a better return on investment of their campaigns for their clients.
  • B2B Software Companies using the software to close more B2B deals.

Within a few sentences, you can quickly see that each segment is able to buy your product for different reasons.

This is why the first step into creating any B2B campaign starts with proper segmentation and creating an Ideal Customer Profile.

2. Problems faced (What)

Once you know the segment of customers you are going after, it’s time to understand their problems.

Based on the two segments above, you can clearly see that the same exact software could target different niches and solve different problems with the same product.

Agency owners would want to partner up with the software to increase client retention and show clear return on investment to their clients.

The VP of Marketing of a B2B Software Company doesn’t really care about client retention, it cares about closing more B2B deals.

This is the power of segmentation.

Now that you have a clear segment, your team can better understand which segment it really cares about and who are competing to solve the same problem.

Here is an example of a segment I focus on and the most common problems they face.

Make sure to use the templates provided in the LinkedIn Content Marketing Ebook, to deep-dive into each segment.

3. Solution (How)

The next phase is pretty obvious. How are you solving the problems you have defined by talking to your Ideal Customer Profile?

Based on these answers you are now able to segment your competitors into 4 categories.

The 4 categories of picking your competitors.

Based on these answers above, you are now able to segment your competitors in 4 categories.

The who, what and how of a competitor research

1. Direct Competitors.

Same customer, same problem, same solution.

2. Different problem competitors

Same customer, same solution, different problem.

3. Different customer competitors

Same solution, same problem, different customer.

4. Different product category competitors

Same problem, same customer, different product.

Here is how this would look like if we would take Uber as an example.

Competitor Research by Ricardo Ghekiere

Lyft = A direct competitor of Uber that solves the exact same problem, sells to the same customer and offers the same solution.

Doordash = Food delivery at home from your favorite restaurants. They sell to the same customer

Zum = a one-stop partner for student transportation.

In your first competitor research, your focus should be on your direct competitors to understand who you are competing with and how they are growing their business.

Once you take your research a step further.

Keep in mind that the most dangerous competitors are those that sell to the same target customer.

Why?

It’s a lot easier to provide extra services or products to an existing customer base compared to selling into a different segment.

This is why I am always amazed when companies are creating new products for different target audiences before nailing one segment.

The investment to go after a new segment never comes cheap.

Got your 3-5 direct competitors?

Time to deep-dive and find hidden growth opportunities.

Because why would you reinvent the wheel, if all you have to do is make it better?

The Product and Pricing: How to research the model and product of your competitors.

What is the business model of your competitors?

When you conduct your competitive analysis, it's good to understand how they are growing their business based on their business model.

Why?

Because the way they grow their company (and pick distribution channels) will always be different depending on 2 factors:

  1. Price
  2. Complexity of the product.
The 3 SaaS Sales Model by Joel York

Here is the breakdown of each model.

The Self Service Model (low price + low complexity)

Sales: None.

Marketing: Fully responsible for revenue generation, creating awareness, educational content and automation capable of driving business through the entire purchase process from awareness to close.

Support: Automation and tools for easy on-boarding

Example: Trello, Asana,…

The Transactional Model (high price + low complexity)

Sales: Inside sales reps supported by online content and automation.

Marketing: Feeds Sales Qualified Leads to the sales team to build pipeline and improves efficiency.

Support: Inside support reps + customer self-service tools.

Example: Hubspot

The Enterprise Model (high price + high complexity)

Sales: Sales reps focused on a narrow set of target prospects directly supported by product marketing and sales engineering resources at a deal level.

Marketing: High-end marketing that facilitates brand awareness, education, relationship building and trust, complemented by direct support of the sales team, including telemarketing speeding access to target prospects and detailed sales tools such as product roadmaps, ROI calculators, etc.

Support: High touch support up to onsite issue resolution complemented by educational tools and training tailored to the specific needs of individual customers.

Example: Palantir

Ask yourself:

– Which Business model are they growing their business(this can be a variation of multiple as they evolve their product or offer multiple products)?

What are the barriers of entry of your competitors?

Barriers to entry are factors that prevent a startup from entering a particular market.

It's your job to discover which barriers are put into place by your competitors in order to move into a segment your are going after.

For SaaS companies, there are three enduring types of competitive advantage observed by Tom Tunguz:

  1. Network effects, exist in enterprise social networks. A great example here is LinkedIn. The more users it gets, the harder it is to enter the market.
  2. Data network effects, exist when the value of additional data is compounded with time. For example, most CRM's get more valuable the moment they are loaded with data, which makes it harder to swamp solution (also called switching costs).
  3. Ecosystem creation, when a SaaS business surrounds itself with successful partners who serve many different types of customers, often not addressed by the SaaS company, and reinforce the value of the SaaS product, it has employed an ecosystem defense. An example is the ecosystem Salesforce has created for their CRM with partners.

Ask yourself:

Does your competitor have a:

  • Network Effect Competitive Advantage?
  • Data Network Effect Competitive Advantage?
  • Ecosystem Creation Competitive Advantage?

What is the pricing of your competitors?


Ask yourself:

  • What is the minimum price your competitor charges? and what are the pricing packages or bundles?
  • What are the main factors that impact price (number of seats, volume etc.)?
  • Do some of the packages belong the different models as discussed above?

What are the Product strength / weaknesses?

Ask yourself:

  • What are the strengths of your competitor’s product?
  • What are the weaknesses of your competitor’s product?
  • How do they communicate the value of the product?

What are the reviews of the product?

Crafting your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) starts with a deep understanding of what your competitors are doing, what they are missing and how you can use this angle to outcompete them.

This is why gathering reviews from your competitors is key to crafting your USP.

By understanding what customers rave about your competitors and what they dislike about them, you are able to craft better experiments to convince your potential customer to choose for your solution.

This is where platforms such as G2crowd, Getapp or Trustradius are powerful tools in your competitor research.

Review product reviews on review sites

Step 1: Go to review sites

By now, you should have a deep understanding of who your competitors are and in which bucket they are in (direct, different problem, different customer, different product).

To start, pick 5 direct competitors (same product, same solution, same customer).

Go to G2crowd (don’t limit your research to just one platform), and research your top 5 direct competitors (if you forgot what this means, scroll up to the first chapter).

Step 2: Research

Go to G2crowd (don’t limit your research to just one platform), and research your top 5 direct competitors on the following topics:

1. What they like about it

2. What they dislike about it

3. Why they recommend it to other people (in other words, how they explain your competitor’s product to their peers). This is important to craft your messaging later-on.

4. What problems are they solving with their product?

The best part?

You’ll probably discover even more competitors you might not even know about.

With this information you are now able to craft your marketing message and find unique angles to acquire new customers.

Here is an example of Albacross.

Leadfeeder is an alternative to Albacross. The main difference between both software is the way they identified companies visiting your website.

  • Leadfeeder uses Google Analytics Data to identify companies
  • Albacross uses a custom written script you add to your website to identify companies.

The biggest advantage of using a custom script is the fact that Albacross is able to identify more companies compared to their biggest competitor.

And since every missed lead is a missed opportunity, it’s a unique angle they are able to play within their competitor campaigns as you can see in the landing page below.

If you want, you can take it even a step further and identify opportunities on feature level.

Here is a complaint about Leadfeeder showing data from a lead that visited their website a week ago.

Connecting with Google Analytics has one big flaw for Leadfeeder.

Data isn’t synced in real-time.

This means that somebody visiting a potential lead visiting your website right now, isn’t shown immediately, something a custom script by Albacross is able to do.

In matters of seconds, you have found yourself another angle to play with compared to your competitors by spying on their reviews.

What are the product reviews/demos on Youtube?

Wondering how the product of your competitor works without asking your friends to ask for a demo?

Most companies upload their product demos on Youtube to send over to new customers signing up or adding it to a blog post.

Have a look at their Youtube page to see what kind of videos they are creating for their marketing materials or product demos to better understand how they explain their product to their potential customers.

Youtube | Competitor Research

The Channel: How to find the channels your competitors are growing.

SEO & SEA COMPETITOR RESEARCH

Identify your top 5 organic competitors

To better understand who you are competing with organically, lets deep dive into your top 5 competitors that are being triggered by the same keywords as you are going after.

Step 1: create a free account on Semrush.

Head over to Semrush and create your free account. This is the tool we will be using to create this competitive research.

Step 2: add your domain

Add your own domain name in the search bar and press “search”. Go to the tab “Domain Overview”.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

In this tab, you’ll quickly see in which countries you have the most organic and paid keywords.

Since Semrush is only able to filter country by country, I advise to start with the most relevant country for you. In this example, since the most organic and paid keywords are based in America, I will use this country.

From this overview, you can also see:

  1. Your estimated traffic in this country.
  2. Your estimated paid search traffic in this country
  3. Your estimated backlinks in this country 4. Your estimated display ads in this country.

I know, it’s fun to see your own numbers.

But what about my competition?

Let’s dive into who your main organic competitors are.

Step 3: find organic competitors

Scroll down in the same tab until you see “main organic competitors”.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Here you’ll be able to see a quick overview of your top competitors, but let’s dive a little deeper.

Click on the button ‘full report’ to see the competitive map.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Here you can see a chart showing you your competitors based on two things:

  1. Organic Search Traffic
  2. Number of keywords they rank for.

In our example, we can quickly see that Lead forensics is one of our biggest competitors organically.

Scroll down and filter on competition level to understand:

Google Ads | Competitor Research
Google Ads | Competitor Research
  1. Your top 5 organic competitors.
  2. How many common keywords you have compared to you.
  3. How many ranking keywords they have compared to you.
  4. How many estimated traffic they have compared to you.
  5. The estimated cost based on the estimated traffic and average cost per click for all ranking keywords for this domain

Identify your top 5 paid competitors

Not all your organic competitors are also going to be paid competitors since every company has its own way of growing.

Head back to the “Domain Overview”, filter your country and scroll down to “Main Paid Competitors”.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Repeat the exact same exercise you have performed in identifying your top 5 organic competitors to understand:

  1. Your top 5 paid competitors.
  2. How many common paid keywords they have compared to you.
  3. How many paid keywords they have compared to you.
  4. How many estimated paid traffic they are getting.
  5. The estimated budget they are spending to rank for those keywords. (a great benchmark to create your marketing plan).

Benchmark SEO & SEA keywords against your competitors.

Since I am going to benchmark you against your competitors, you’ll need to have the top 5 competitors (paid and organic) from the previous exercise (obviously).

Let’s get started.

Step 1: pick advertising toolkit

Head over the ‘Advertising Toolkit’.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Step 2: pick Keyword Gap

Pick the tab ‘Keyword Gap’ on the left sidebar and pick the right country you want to analyse. It’s time to fill in your own domain, together with the 4 competitors you have found in the organic research (not the paid).

Make sure to add each competitor in the right order. In our case, I know that Lead Forensics is the biggest organic competitor.

This is why I have added them as the second competitor in this tab.

Do the same for your 2nd, 3th ,and 4th biggest competitor.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

In this example, you’ll see:

  1. Your own ranking keywords (1123 in this case).
  2. The common organic keywords you have with your biggest competitor (217 in this case).
  3. The common organic keywords you have with your first and second biggest competitor. (12 in this case)
  4. The common organic keywords you have with our first, second and third biggest competitor. (10 in this case)
  5. The common organic keywords you have with our first, second, third and fourth biggest competitor. (5 in this case)

When you scroll down you’ll be able to see your position on the 5 keywords (this might be a different number for you) you are all ranking for and how relevant they are for you. Feel free to remove a competitor to get another overview of all the keywords you are ranking for compared to the 3 of them.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Now change the ‘organic keywords’ under each domain and run the same exercise for your Paid Campaigns. This will give you a strong benchmark, but now we are going to take it a step further.

Identify relevant SEO keywords from your competitors

To better understand how we rank against our competitors, we need to map our own keywords against theirs. This is why for this exercise you’ll need to export your own organic keywords and those of your top 4-5 organic competitors.

Step 1: Find Domain Overview

Head over to the tab ‘domain overview’.

Step 2: Find Organic Keywords

Scroll down to ‘Top Organic Keywords’ and press ‘view full report’.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Step 3: Export Organic Keywords

Export all the keywords you rank for. For this exercise, we are going to use Excel since we use this most of the time for our Google Ads or Organic Research. Feel free to work with what you are most comfortable with.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Step 4: Create your tab

Create a new tab with your company name to copy-paste them into this tab.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Step 5: Repeat the process for competitors

Do the exact same thing with your top 5 main organic competitors.

Go back to the tab ‘Domain Overview’ and scroll down until you see “Main Organic Competitors”.

Head over to your first main competitor and click on their SE Keywords.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Pull a new export, create a new tab with the name of the competitor and add the export to this tab.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Repeat this process for the other competitors you want to map your keywords against.

Step 6: stick it together

Once you have all your competitors keywords in each tab and your own, it’s time to add them together.

Create a tab ‘All SEO keywords”, add your own keywords inside this tab and create a new column called ‘domain’.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

In this column, add your company name next to the first keyword and pull down until the last keyword until every keyword of your company has a domain next to it. (you can also use the double-click shortcut for the real excel gurus between us).

Now add all your other competitors to the same sheet until you get a list of all the keywords with the right domain of competitors next to it.

Step 7: Remove Duplicate Keywords

Select both Columns and use the remove duplicate function in Excel. Make sure to only pick ‘column A’ (or the column where you keywords are in).

Google Ads | Competitor Research

When you click ‘ok’, Excel will tell you how many duplicates were found and remove.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Great job!

Step 8: Create the table

Select all columns again and insert a table.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Once you have created the table, make sure to filter your own domain from this sheet.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

In this sheet, you’ll now be able to see which keywords you are NOT ranking for ORGANICALLY, compared to your biggest competitors.

Step 9: Validate the keywords

Of course, you are not your competitor. This is why we need to validate each keyword that makes sense for our own business.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Add a new tab ‘validate’, add a filter to it and gather your team to validate which keywords are interesting for your business by adding a small ‘x’ next to the keyword.

This way you can filter on ‘x’ to get all the keywords you want to start validating for your own business.

Once you filter out all the blanks (the keywords that are not useful for your business), you are left with all the keywords your competitors are ranking for organically for you to start validating with Google Ads campaigns.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Identify relevant SEA keywords from your competitors

Now you have all the relevant SEO keywords you are not ranking for compared to your biggest SEO competitors.

But as you have seen from our previous exercise, SEO competitors and SEA competitors can be very different since every company has its own growth strategy.

This is why we need to run the exact same exercise for our top 5 SEA competitors to discover other relevant keywords we have missed in the SEO benchmark research.

The only difference is that we don’t have to take the paid keywords from our own domain from Semrush because we are going to take them from the Google Ads campaign itself.

First, head back to Semrush to the tab ‘Domain Overview’. Then scroll down to ‘Top Paid Keywords’ to start exporting your own Paid Keywords.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

Now you can export all the Paid Keywords from your top 5 SEA competitors to understand which keywords they are bidding on that are relevant for your own business.

Google Ads | Competitor Research

For the final step, you want to make sure that the keywords you want to validate are not being used in your Google Ads account already.

Why?

Otherwise you would compete against yourself. You can check this by following these 9 steps:

  1. Head over to your Google Ads account
  2. Click on ‘search campaigns’ and then ‘keywords’
  3. Navigate to ‘search terms’
  4. Depending on your traffic, make sure you take a date range that is long enough. This way, you have enough data for the comparison.
  5. Take an export of the search terms
  6. Erase all the invalid columns in the excel sheet, and add a column “domain” with your brand in it in order to filter them out later
  7. Paste all keywords from SEO research, SEA research and current Google Ads terms together
  8. Erase all the duplicates once more
  9. Filter out the domain “Albacross”

Finally!

Now you should have all the keywords from SEO and SEA that your competitors are ranking or paying for.

You can then start validating which ones are also bringing you relevant conversions in your Search Campaigns.

Make sure to send this to an experienced SEA Marketer to make sure these keywords are mapped in the right way within the campaigns.

Now that you understand how to benchmark yourself on Google, it’s time to have a deep-dive into the other platforms your competitors might be gaining traction from.

How to check your share of impressions and that of your competitors in Google ads?

In Google Ads you have something that is called “auction insights”.

To get there just go to your Google Ads campaign → click on ‘all campaigns’ and then click ‘auction insights’ the top.

You can also select the campaigns separately to get a view on campaign level (or ad groups, or keywords, …).

Google Ads | Competitor Research

When you do this you should see something like this:

Google Ads | Competitor Research

In the first column, you will see yourself and other competitors that have been bidding on the same keywords of the selection you made.

In the other columns, you can track the following metrics:

Impression share: the number of impressions you received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive. Eligibility is based on your current ads' targeting settings, approval statuses, bids, and Quality Scores.

Avg. Position: a quick way to gauge how your ads are ranking compared with those of other advertisers that are competing in the same auctions. – Overlap rate: how often a competitor’s ad received an impression when

your ad also received an impression.

Position above rate: how often the competitor’s ad was positioned above yours, when both of your ads were shown at the same time.

Top of page rate: tells you how often your ad (or the ad of a competitor, depending on which row you're viewing) was shown at the top of the page, above the unpaid search results.

Abs. top of page rate: Absolute top of the page rate tells you how often your ad (or the ad of a competitor, depending on which row you are viewing) was shown at the absolute top of the page as the very first ad above the organic search results.

Outranking share: the number of times your ad ranked higher in the auction than a competitor’s ad, plus the number of times your ad showed when theirs did not, divided by the total number of ad auctions you participated in.

You can read the full explanation at Google Support here.

We would advise you to create a few segments to analyse this.

Here are a few examples:

Auction insights on branded campaign: Which competitors are advertising on my brand? If you are advertising in more than 1 country, create a branded campaign for each country in order to get a better view on your competitors per country

Auction insights on non branded campaigns/keywords: On which different categories, products, services, intents,… are you advertising and who are your biggest competitors per segment?

Top 10 converting non-branded keywords: If you have an amount of keywords that brings you a lot of conversion, make sure to check whether your impression share is sufficient for those keywords

If you have created your segments you can take it one step further.

What if your impression share is 50% on your top 10 converting non-branded keywords?

You would like it to be a 100%, right? To be honest, this could cost you a fortune.

That’s why you need to find the right balance between impression share and the cost-per-conversion you’re using as a KPI.

You can test this by deliberately experimenting with higher bids, different bid strategies, improving the Quality Score, etc.

Finally, perform your tests in a Google Ads experiment so you can see the differences clearly and validate correctly.

FACEBOOK COMPETITOR RESEARCH

When it comes to running Facebook ads, the first step is not to run ads and hope something sticks.

The first step to running Facebook ads is to discover what your competitors are doing.

Not to copy-paste their strategy, but to learn key learnings from how they are using the platform to acquire leads.

These are the things you want to learn from your competitors running Facebook Ads.

  • How active are your competitors using Facebook as a platform (if at all?).
  • What’s the communication angle they are using to convince leads?
  • Are there any countries they are focussing on? Which ones are they
  • excluding from their campaigns?
  • How much are they A/B testing on the platform?
  • How are they building their Funnel to convert visitors into sales?
  • What kind of images are they using?
  • How advanced is the marketing team using UTM tags?
  • What can we learn from the UTM tags used by the competitor to build our own funnel?
  • How are your competitors using their Facebook Pixel to understand the maturity of their marketing team, the effort they spend on Facebook and how they use it to track conversions.

Let’s start with the beginning.

How active are your competitors using Facebook ads (if at all?).

There are a bunch of tools such as Adswiper or Adsova to figure out what kind of Facebook Campaigns your competitors are running depending on how advanced you want to deep-dive into them.

To start, keep it simple. In order to get a general overview of how your competitors are using Facebook Ads for free, take the following steps:

Step 1: Go to Facebook Ads Library

Go to the Facebook Ads Library, a comprehensive, searchable collection of all ads currently running from across Facebook Products.

Step 2: Add competitors

Fill in the competitors you want to research for your company.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Step 3: Learn

In a brief overview, you’ll be able to see how many Facebook ads your competitors are running at this exact moment (if they are running them at all).

What’s the communication angle are they using to convince leads?

In the example below, you’ll be able to see the different angles Leadfeeder is using to convince their prospects.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Visual Communication angles such as:

  • See which companies visit your website
  • World’s best B2B website visitor tracking – Discover new prospects and monitor existing customers.

Call to action angles such as:

  1. How leadfeeder Helps You Generate More Leads
  2. Try Leadfeeder For Free

As you can see from the examples above, Leadfeeder has been experimenting a lot on Facebook to figure out which type of messaging works for them.

Are there any countries they are focussing and excluding?

The great thing about Facebook Ads library is the ability to filter based on countries.

Let’s say we want to figure out if our competitor is running ads in our little country, named Belgium.

Place the filter and done.

Facebook | Competitor Research

You should now have an overview of the campaigns they are running in that country.

Now you can filter based on the country you want to target to see how active your competitors are, and if they adapt their ads towards a specific country.

Now let’s dive a little deeper.

How advanced is the marketing team using UTM tags?

We have discussed what the importance of UTM tags is in the first part of our growth audit.

Now let’s use that to our advantage.

The problem with seeing all these ads is simple.

They don’t provide us with context.

Are they using these ads to get people to the website or are they used to retarget people to sign up?

Let’s use UTM tags to reverse engineer the funnel of our competitor.

Go to one of the images and hover (don’t click) over the call to action. In this case the ‘Learn More’ button.

Facebook | Competitor Research

At the bottom of your screen, you’ll be able to see a link. Let’s see what the link can tell us about how competitors are using their Facebook ads.

If you look closer to the link you can separate each tag to draw context from where the ad was shown and how to interpret it.

UTM_source= facebook.

The ad is shown on Facebook (obvious)

UTM_medium= cpc.

The ad is sponsored as Cost Per Click (obvious for a paid Facebook ad)

UTM_campaign=traffic.

The ad is part of a traffic campaign. Which means they are bringing in traffic to the website through this type of posts.

UTM_content=lead-gen-strategies-2019.

This is a way for the team to identify the content that was shown. Most of the time this is the name of the blog post or visual used.

We now know Leadfeeder uses these type of blog posts to get traffic to the website.

My advice to them would be to add a way to measure how engaged the people reading the blog are.

For example, when people are halfway a blog and spend X amount of time reading a blog post of Albacross, a Facebook Pixel fires ‘EngagedWithBlog’.

Facebook | Competitor Research

This way you can start measuring how engaged people are reading your article you are promoting and retarget them based on their engagement.

Anyways, let’s move on.

The question remains: “what happens after people read the article?”

Let’s look at other Facebook ads they run.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Notice the UTM_campaign in this link? It says ‘retargeting’.

The same goes for this Facebook ad.

Facebook | Competitor Research

This means when people land on the website, they are running retargeting ads to get visitors back to the website in two ways:

  1. A video on how Leadfeeder works.
  2. An ebook they can download.

In a matter of minutes, we are now able to start picturing the funnel a competitor of yours is using to bring people to the website and retarget them to sign up.

This doesn’t mean you have to build the same exact funnel, it just shows you how advanced your competitor is running Facebook ads, what it takes to outperform and how focussed your competitor is on the channel.

Now you won’t always be this ‘lucky’. There are a lot of cases where your competitors aren’t using UTM tags in their campaigns.

For example, another competitor named Clearbit only has 4 ads online and isn’t showing any tags at all.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Now it’s time to run this analysis for our main competitors to figure out interesting insights on how they are using Facebook to acquire leads.

Note: Some companies won't use UTM's or hide their UTM parameters if they are a little more advanced with a GTM lookup table. But most companies just forget or are very inconsistent.

How to compile Facebook ads/posts from our competitors to build our own?

Hoeraay.

You have done your basic research on how your competitors are using Facebook ads, but how do we start compiling them to build our own?

This is where a little free (yup, free) extension called Fill Your Funnel will come in handy. This extension helps you build your funnel by spying on your competitors funnel or assets they have online.

This tool also helps you save the ads or posts your competitors are using with a click of a button.

Step 1: Download extension

Download the extension Fill Your Funnel.

Step 2: Facebook ads library

Head over to the ads Library of Facebook. Yes, this is where you can find every single ad your competitors are running right now.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Step 3: pick country

Choose the country you want to spy on. This is also a great way to see in which countries they are running ads and what countries they are focussing on.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Step 4: Screenshot ads

Use the chrome extension to start taking screenshots of the most relevant ads you are looking to draw inspiration from.

Facebook | Competitor Research
Facebook | Competitor Research

Step 5: Create a new folder

Create a new Folder with the competitor you are trying to analyse.

Add the right tag such as ‘facebook ads’ (since you can use this extension to save posts or ads from different platforms).

Facebook | Competitor Research

You should now have a folder in Fill Your Funnel to store all the inspiration you want from your competitor.

Facebook | Competitor Research

This way, you can start building up inspiration from your competitors in matters of seconds to discuss with the team.

How are your competitors using their Facebook Pixel to track conversions?

In the first chapter, you ran the analysis to see how you have implemented the Facebook Pixel in your flow to track key metrics.

To run this analysis, we used a little extension called ‘Facebook Pixel Helper’ without digging into the code of your website.

The best part?

You can run the same analysis for your competitors.

This way, you’ll understand how they are using their Facebook Pixel to track key conversions and how advanced they are using the platform.

Let’s kickstart?

The first obvious step is to see if they actually have a Facebook Pixel installed on their website.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Go to your competitor’s website and see if a pixel pops up using the Pixel Helper.

Now let’s check their funnels.

People are risk-averse creators. We call this the risk aversion theory. A theory that states that people rather not lose 5€ than to find €5.

This is the exact same reason why most people don’t actually book a demo with your company straight away. They want to make the proper research because they might be ‘losing’ time by jumping on that call with you.

This is why Marketers build funnels. Our goal is to make sure to lower the risk of people starting a trial, buying your product or jumping on a demo with you.

This is why you always have to start your research with the first touch in the funnel your competitor has built.

In the exercise above we have seen Leadfeeder starts their funnel with promoting a blog article.

Head over to your competitor’s blog to see if a pixel fires when you engage with the blog (this could be reading an article in-depth or spending X amount of time on the page as shown on the Albacross blog).

Next, have a look if the company has an ebook or Side Project in place.

Head over to their ebook landing page, download the ebook and check the Facebook Pixel. When done right, there should be a pixel fired under the name ‘lead’ or anything that tells Facebook that a conversion happened.

Here is an example when you download an ebook on Travelperk.

Facebook | Competitor Research

Now you know your competitor is tracking leads in Facebook when an ebook is downloaded.

Depending on the business model, they could already move to start a free trial, booking a demo or making a purchase.

Initiate the next step in the funnel to see if they track people on their way to becoming a customer. In the case of Albacross, this is when people show interest in signing up.

Facebook | Competitor Research

In this case, an ‘InitiateCheckout’ pixel fires. Which tells the platform ‘a user showed interest in starting a trial’.

Useful information when you want to start showing different ads based on the engagement on their website.

Now sign up, book a demo or make a small purchase to see if they can track conversions happening.

Facebook | Competitor Research

When an Albacross user signs up, a StartTrial pixel fires. This way, the marketer knows exactly which campaign brought in the most trials (if the campaign was optimised for this).

You can go a lot further in the funnel, but for now, this should give you an understanding of how advanced the company is tracking conversions.

The best part?

You might come to the conclusion that Facebook isn’t the right platform for your company without spending a single dime on it.

This is where the following research comes into play.

STACK COMPETITOR RESEARCH

What if you knew exactly what tools your competitors are using to build their analytics, CRM, Marketing Automation?

This is where a little tool comes into play. A tool we use every single time we jump on a call with a prospect.

I call it: “Checking out their stack”.

Which, I agree, might sound a little weird to some people.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Builtwith

Go to Builtwith. Pretty easy for now, right?

Step 2: add competitors

Copy-paste the domain name of your competitor in the search query.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

Step 3: Find tech stack

You should now get a full list of tools your competitor has installed on their website

Head over to ‘Detailed Technology Profile’ to get a more structured overview.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

With this tool, you can answer relevant business questions.

Questions such as:

  • What tools do they use to analyze their data?
  • Are they using advanced tools or are they using rather basic ones?
  • What do they use to track the leads (CRM) and marketing automation?
  • How is their website build?
  • Which Marketing Pixels do they have installed on their website? Are they using it to advertise?
  • What payment gateways are they using to receive payments?
  • What tools do they use to create landing pages?
  • What languages do they have on their website translated?

Let’s dive into one for you to get the hang on it.

Type in Albacross.com in BuiltWith → go to Detailed Technology Profile.

Here is what we can learn from this company.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

Analytics

They use Hotjar to track how users navigate on the website They use their own tool Albacross to identify companies visiting their website. They use Provesource to show social proof on their website to increase conversions.

They use Google Tag Manager to set up their tracking and inject codes to their website. They have the basic Google Analytics Setup, but seem to be using Google Optimize to A/B test which could indicate there are senior marketing profiles within or working with the company.

CRM and Marketing Automation

There doesn’t seem to be a CRM or Marketing Automation system in place, which indicates they are using Intercom to track leads and run marketing automation when people sign up.

After doing research, it shows they don’t have an ebook for people to sign up and therefore don’t need a Marketing Automation System for now.

Pixels

They have the following pixels installed:

  • Facebook Pixel
  • Twitter Pixel
  • Linkedin Insight
  • Bing
  • Adwords

Once companies place these pixels on their website it means they want to capture incoming data or are advertising on the platforms. This is a way to reverse engineer the channels your competitors are using to scale their business, and therefore also yours.

Payments

They use Stripe to receive payments

Builtwith | Competitor Research

We could go on for a while, but I hope you get the point of how much valuable data you can gather from your competitors with a few clicks.

If you are reading this thinking: “Hey, can I use this website to reverse engineer what tools people use on their website to reach out?”.

The answer is yes.

Let’s say you want to target every company that uses or has used Albacross on their website. All you would have to do is click on the technology, Albacross in this case.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

You’ll now be able to see if the technology has increased in usage or not.

Also, you’ll be able to see in which country the technology is used the most, as shown with the red arrow on the picture.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

In the case of Albacross, they can now see in which countries most of their competitors are installed and use this to adapt or validate assumptions in their marketing strategy.

With this usage stats, you’ll also see you can immediately download a list of all the companies using this technology.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

This, of course, doesn’t come free. 🙂

Now let’s dive a little deeper.

Let’s figure out if you are stealing customers from your competitors or they are stealing from you.

Scroll down and click on ‘Full Market Share Report’.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

Scroll down where you’ll be able to get an overview who is stealing your leads or who you are stealing from.

Builtwith | Competitor Research

The best part?

You might even discover some hidden competitors that weren’t on your radar from your first competitor research yet.

Time to go redesign your Google Ads Competitor Ads.

ANALYTICS COMPETITOR RESEARCH

How much would you pay to have a look into the Google analytics of your biggest competitors to understand how they are growing their business?

This is exactly what you are going to do in this chapter.

The best part?

We don’t even need to hack into the Google Analytics of our competitors, although that would be something fun to do on the weekends.

Important to understand for your competitor research:

  • The tool we’ll be using to do this only tracks data the moment you set it up. This means you won’t be able to see the data before this date.
  • The tool doesn’t track mobile data coming to the website. If most of your competitor’s traffic is coming from mobile, this is not something for you.
  • You need to have a basic understanding of setting up Google Analytics to get the most out of this tool.
  • The tool is legal (yes we have checked).

Let’s get started.

How to see the Google analytics of your biggest competitors.

Step 1: Create an account

Create an account on Nacho Analytics.

Step 2: Add competitors

Add the competitors you want to track and let the tool do its magic.

It will take a while before it can actually give you the first results based on the activity of the website.

Go read another chapter of this book until they ping you.

Step 3: Get started

Once the tool is ready, it’s time to dig into the data.

Google Analytics | Competitor Research

Hit the View Google Analytics.

You should now have your competitors Google Analytics in your pocket.

The best part?

You can set it up just like you would set up your own Google Analytics to track relevant data.

Step 4: Set up an account

You have set up goals to track relevant metrics in your business, let’s do the same for your competitors.

For example, if you would be interested in how many trials or demo’s your competitor is booking, you can set up goals to keep track of that.

Go through their customer journey flow and create new goals in Google Analytics with all the relevant metrics you want to better understand.

Google Analytics | Competitor Research

Keep in mind that sometimes, like in your own business, tracking goals might be a little techy or hard to track. In this example, we had to create a goal based on a regular expression to make sure we keep track of the number of trails our competitor is getting.

Google Analytics | Competitor Research

How you set this up varies on the business you want to track. Keep in mind that even if it looks like this is your Google Analytics account, it’s not. You can only do as much as you can from a distance.

Set up the account properly based on what you would like to learn about your competitors.

Now it’s time to wait a few days to let the tool do it’s magic since it only tracks the activity from the day it’s installed.

Step 5: Learn from data

A few days later, the data should be coming in to better understand questions you might have about your competitor.

For example, which country is my competitor getting the most trails or demo’s from?

Google Analytics | Competitor Research

Keep in mind that this data isn’t an exact science since not all data is tracked (such as mobile).

Yet, it does give you some important answers about your competitor to use in your own business.

Even if the actual numbers may be off, their relative relationships are accurate. For example, I might not have a high degree of confidence that Product A converted 1000 times and Product B converted 200 times, but I’m relatively certain that Product A converts at a significantly higher rate than Product B; and there’s certainly value in that.

LINKEDIN COMPETITIVE RESEARCH

Want to see which LinkedIn campaigns your competitors are running right now and the possible audience they are targeting?

Here’s how.

1. Head over to your competitor LinkedIn Company Page.

2. Scroll down.

3. On the left side, you'll see a little tab called 'ads' under the tab 'people'.

Linkedin | Competitor Research

4. Click and scroll to get inspiration.

Looking to take your competitor research even further?

Most of your competitors will use UTM parameters to track the performance of their campaigns.

This is where you can find some extra data about who they are targeting:

1. Scroll through your competitor’s ads.

2. Click on the ‘Call To Action’. You’ll get redirected to the page they are promoting. A great way to see which landing pages and propositions they are using in their ads.

Linkedin | Competitor Research

Now let’s take it a step further.

3. Have a look at the URL of the website you landed on.

Since most marketers use the audience they are targeting in the parameters. This way, you can know whom your competitor is targeting on LinkedIn.

UTM Tags | Competitor Research

In their case, this is the URL they use:

https://www.leadfeeder.com/?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=cpc&utm_c ampaign=retargeting&utm_content=what_is_LF_video.

This is what we can learn from the URL.

1. Their tagging is done properly, making sure they are able to analyze

properly what is working for them. 2. Utm_campaign= retargeting. This video is shown to people who have

been to the site. Not to attract new customers on LinkedIn. 3. UTM_content = what_is_LF_video. This one is pretty obvious. They use a video explaining Leadfeeder as a content to retarget their users that don’t convert.

Note: Some companies won't use UTM's or hide their UTM parameters if they are a little more advanced with a GTM lookup table. But most companies just forget or are very inconsistent.

Here is another example.

Leadfeeder uses guides to attract new customers into their funnel:

Linkedin forms | Competitor Research

We are able to learn that they don’t send people off the platform to convert, but make sure the LinkedIn users stay on the platform to maximize conversions. Once you click on ‘download’ we can learn the following:

Linkedin forms | Competitor Research

The company doesn’t use any segmentation to capture new leads. Segmentation questions like:

  • Are you an agency?
  • Are you a B2B SaaS company?
  • Are you a freelancer?

Important information your sales team might be interested in.

The reason why they don’t ask these questions is because they segment you as a lead the moment you sign up for a trial.

Relevant information you are now able to understand how to craft your marketing strategy.

Yet, If I was Leadfeeder, I would have done things a little differently. They are retargeting users that visit their website to this landing page:

Leadfeeder | Competitor Research

Leadfeeder has a native integration with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which is great if this is a tool you are using a lot for prospecting. In my opinion, they should have retargeted people on the platform with this value proposition. Not the general homepage.

Leadfeeder | Competitor Research

Extra information for your competitor research

Comparisons questions to answer during competitor research:

● Compare your traffic against your competitors

● Compare your engagement against your competitors

● Compare your traffic channels against your competitors

● Compare social traffic against your competitors

● Compare display traffic against your competitors

● Map your keyword universe

● Compare your keywords to competitors over time

● Identify growth channels of competitors.

● Compare which analytics stack they are using (ghostery)

● Compare what stack they use (builtwith)

● How are there automation flows set up?

Questions to answer during your research:

● Who are your top 5 competitors (both organic and inorganic)?

● What are they doing the best?

● What is their current market share?

● Has their market share been increasing or declining?

● What type of products/services do they offer?

● What is their USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?

● What sort of advertising strategies are they currently using?

● Why do people love them?

● What are the things that people don’t like about them?

● Which geographical areas do they operate in?

● What is their pricing structure?

● What are the keywords for which they are ranking organically?

● What are their major PPC keywords?

● What sort of engagement are they receiving on social media?

● What is their advertising budget?

● How do their customers rate their customer service?

● Do their employees love them?

● What sort of reviews do they receive regularly?

● What is their total sales volume?

● What kind of FB ads are my competitors running?

Tools competitor research

● Tools Spyfu

● Similarweb

● Google Alert

● https://website.grader.com/

● https://www.whatrunswhere.com/

● https://webassembly.org/

● https://www.quantcast.com/

● SemRush

● https://visualping.io/

● https://www.compete.com/

● https://www.facebook.com/ads/library

● https://www.ispionage.com/Products/Keyword-Domain-Research

● https://www.crayon.co/products/competitive-intelligence

● Datanyze

● Builtwith

● Mixrank

● Nachoanalytics

Tools for Company Profiles:

● Crunchbase – Discover industry trends, investments, and news about your competitors.

● LinkedIn – Where you can find out a competitor’s “biographical” info. Usually the best source to find an active employee count.

● Angel.co – See which startups are hiring and for what positions.

● Owler – Similar to Crunchbase.

● DataFox – Its database shows which companies use more than 14,000 technology solutions, which you can search through using the Similar Company Algorithm.

● Mattermark – See company profiles, key personnel, and growth signals related to your competitors.

● Slideshare – Find competitor product or funding slide decks here.

Tools for Competitor Product reviews:

● G2Crowd – The best resource to learn what customers think about your products and competitors.

● GetApp – Similar to G2Crowd.

● TrustRadius – Similar to G2Crowd.

● Quora – See questions or discussions about certain products or topics that might be helpful in your competitive analysis.

● YouTube – Find product demos and presentations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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